And in case you didn't know...

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

FEW people know that the orange actually came from China! So it follows that the Chinese named this wonderful fruit. It was first mentioned in Chinese medical books thousands of years ago. But this delicious fruit, with its high vitamin C content, has been eaten and made into juice only in recent centuries.

A long history

Before the year 1500, only bitter oranges were grown and were primarily used for seasoning meat. In 1635, a very sweet orange was introduced in China, and it was an immediate success.

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The Spanish and Portuguese, however, were the ones who introduced the orange to America.

When ships started coming to America in the 1500s, they were required to carry 100 seeds aboard. But they found that the seeds dried easily on the long voyage, so they began carrying small trees instead.

The orange is indeed a delicious, interesting, and nutritious fruit. People in the United States eat more oranges than any other fruit, and nearly a third of the world's oranges are produced and consumed in the US.

The bulk of the orange crop is processed into juice. In fact, the residue that is left at the processing plants after orange juice is prepared is a million-dollar business. The pulp, the seeds, and rind are made into many products such as varnishes and paints, perfumes, cake mixes, candies, and soft drinks.

A synthetic spearmint oil is made from peel oil; Coca-Cola is one of the largest users of it. More than 100 million pounds of unsaturated peel oil is sold each year for cooking. Orange seed oil tastes similar to butter.

Dried orange sacs mixed with water make a thick substance used to fight forest fires.

Orange wood is very tough and has been used by archers for many years. Its fine ingrain is excellent for furniture, too.

Green fruit of Thailand

The color of an orange has nothing to do with its ripeness. It can be emerald green and be as sweet and juicy as it will ever be. In Thailand, where it never gets cold, the oranges are always eaten green. The navel orange originally came from Brazil.

Florida is one of the most ``rained on'' states and produces most of the nation's oranges and orange juice. California is arid, which is why the California orange has a thicker skin, compared with Florida's thin-skinned oranges.

The blossom end of the orange is the sweetest. Many grove owners eat that part only.

Virtually no orange trees are grown from seed. They are grafted on lemon stock. Those grown from seed produce a very thorny tree with an inedible sour orange. The Indians in the Everglades produce most of the lemon stock used in propagating orange trees.

Pickers wait until crop is ripe

After four or five years, young orange trees begin to produce fruit and can continue for some 50 years. In Europe, one orange tree planted in 1421 was known to live 473 years. It was moved three times by noblemen and died in 1894.

Unlike apples and pears, oranges will not continue to ripen once they are picked. Oranges picked unripe will turn green again. Inside, unripe oranges look like a cup of uncooked rice and are not edible.

Oranges should not be picked until the dew is off them; otherwise the skin gets taut, and they are easily damaged. It takes a worker about an hour to strip an orange tree. On the average, an orange tree produces close to 1,500 oranges.

After they are picked, oranges are washed, coated with a light wax, and carefully handled, as even the scratch of a fingernail will rupture oil cells.

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